Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just for Screams: An Examination of Horror Films and Their Ridiculous Sequel Count

Horror films. Everybody loves the thrill of being scared. What's the result of this? They keeps us coming back for more- literally.
I don't think anybody would argue that horror films, more accurately "slasher flims",  put out more sequels than any other genre of film. So in honor of Halloween 2010, I have put together a list of the most recognizable horror films that, for the most part, owe their notoriety to their sheer number of sequels, prequels, and remakes. 

 The golden age of horror films was definitely the 1980s, and none of it would have been so if it weren't for John Carpenter's Halloween. Released in 1978, John Carpenter's original is, without doubt, the greatest installment in the series.

Shot in only 21 days, with a budget of only $300,000, this B-film started a revolution in horror. What is it you ask? The teenage slasher film. Shortly afterwards we had movies like Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street which all featured supernatural killers, both of which turned out ridiculous amounts of sequels.

Speaking of sequels, Halloween went on to produce seven more sequels which lasted on through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, each one continuing to add on to the mythology of Michael Meyers and effectively ruining the franchise. This, of course, not including Rob Zombie's two remakes in 2007 and 2009, which also did their part in turning the series into something unrecognizable.

Everybody loves Friday the 13th. We all love the mystery, the superstition, and, of course, the chopped up teenagers spread across cabin floors.

Originally released in 1980, Victor Miller, the original writter, admitted that he was riding off the success of John Carpenter's Halloween, taking the idea of a teen killer who can't be killed (teens being his target, not his age).

Shot in only 28 days, the original 'Friday' went on to succeed seven more sequels under the same name. In fact, 1988 was the only year in the 80s without an installment. Eventually Paramount sold the rights of the Jason Voorhees character to New Line Cinema, not the actual Friday the 13th name. New Line went on to put out three more 'Jason' movies:  Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X and the crossover film Freddy vs. Jason.

All together, Jason Voorhees has appeared in twelve films, including the 2009 remake of the first three. Now you take the number of teens he's sliced and diced in each film and add them up... That's a lot of premarital sex.

So picture this: You're standing in your shower, totally at peace, not getting your hair wet, not using any soap, just letting the water hit the bottom third of your body, the totally realistic way, and all of a sudden some crazy man-lady starts stabbing you! Well, that actually happened to Jamie Lee Curtis' mother.

Filmed from November 30, 1959 to March 1, 1960, this was Hitchcock's last feature film in black and white. Norman Bates and his derranged company ended up putting out two sequels, a prequel,  a television based spin-off, and a remake in 1998 starring Vince Vaughn. Crazy, right?

So what could be worse than a child murderer? A dead child murderer who continues to murder children through dreams. Well, in this case, nightmares.

Enter wise-cracking, Christmas sweater wearing serial killer Freddy Kruger. Brainchild of  suspense master Wes Craven, the script for the original was written in 1981 and "flew around" for three years until horror pioneer New Line Cinema picked it up.

When it was finally released in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a hit, grossing over $25 million worldwide and spawning six sequels, the crossover Freddy vs. Jason, and a remake just released earlier this year. Up through now, Freddy has appeared in a total of nine films. If that doesn't scare you, Kruger was inspired by a hobo Wes saw staring at him through his window when he woke up one day, back when he was a 10 year old.

People in Texas are crazy. If you don't believe me, you can take it up with this guy.

Talk about a face only a mother could love. The Texs Chainsaw Massacre is the second movie on my list to be inspired by a series of grizzly murders by a flesh-wearing maniac who lived in Wisconsin (the other being Alfred Hitchock's Psycho).

This has been more of a generational story, one or two movies released each decade since 1974. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the eighth highest grossing horror franchise in America, only slimly beating out the Child's Play movies.

By the time Leatherface was done sawing up horny teenagers, the series had  three sequels and a remake in 2003 and a prequel in 2006. I guess prequels are what you do when you have run out of ideas but still want to milk a franchise.

"Hello, Sidney."

From the master of suspense himself, Wes Craven is known for many of his classic horror flicks and Scream is no exception. When it was released in 1996, it brought back the slasher film for the 1990s and even for today.

People fell in love with Scream for it's mock on all horror movie cliches and yet, it is a horror movie in itself. It's called a pastiche.

Scream eventually produced two successful sequels, one the year after, and the third installment came three years after the second, in 2000. Ever since it's original release back in '96, this franchise has continued to stand out among other horror flicks because of its self awareness and ability to mock everything it is while providing thrills and chills all the same.

But wait, there's more... a fourth installment, cleverly entittled Scream 4, is due out on April 15th, 2011. This one is said to play by the new rules of the new generation off horror cliches.

"If it's Halloween, it must be Saw". This catchy tagline has been used every Halloween for the last seven years.

When talking about endless sequels to horror films, you can't leave out the infamous Saw films of last decade. Filmed in a record of 18 days, the orginal film was intended for straight-to-video release, but became a premiere franchise after gaining positive reviews.

A premiere franchise is right. Saw was the most successful horror series of last decade and it's easy to see why- people keep paying the money to see people get hacked up by terrorizing machines and traps; enough to make a fan of blood and guts very, very happy.

Saw went on to produce a movie for every year since its original release. In total, that's six movies and a seventh one comes out today, in 3D none the less. It claims that it is the last one, but we'll see about that.

"Hi, I'm Chucky". This is probably one of the most chilling lines in all of horror cinema, simply because it comes from a doll.

Released in 1988, Child's Play was almost tittled Bloody Buddy. If you ask me, they both sound pretty scarry.

Everybody's favorite playtime doll, Chucky, has earned quite a name for himself. This "Good Guy" went on to scare us for two more sequels with United Artists, remaining faithful to his fans as the darker, scarier Chucky.

Eventually U.A. sold the rights of the characters to Universal Studios where Brad Dourif's signature voice would once again bring life into the doll. However, unlike last time, these two sequels would feature a much funnier, wise-cracking Chucky. Not many fans liked this decision.

Seeing is how my list is about ridiculous amounts of sequels, prequels, and remakes, it probably won't surprise you to know that a remake of the original is expected to be released sometime next year. This remake will star Brad Dourif (hopefully) and return Chucky back to his much darker roots. Golly gee!

All this and it still isn't over. As we speak more classic horror films are either are being remade or have sequels or prequels on the way, such as a sequel to the lastest Friday the 13th installment and remakes like Terror Train, Birds, and many more. Horror is an interesting genre that is definitely going to stay with us for as long as we exist; tapping into the deepest emotion that dwells within us all- fear. And these relentless sequels, prequels, and remakes are concrete evidence that fear never truely dies.

Thank you for reading and happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


It's been more than a decade since The Sixth Sense, but Matt Damon is just now proving that Haley Joel Osment is not the only one who can see dead people, in Clint Eastwood's latest film Hereafter.

He has been in the game for decades and Clint Eastwood is still putting out one quality film after another and Hereafter is no exception.

Starting off with one of the most interesting opening scenes I've ever seen in a movie, we are taken all over the world, following three different plotlines in a way that only Eastwood can. From beautiful landscapes to magnificent monuments, Eastwood works his magic beautifully to keep the three plotlines going all the way up to where they all come together for the climax; the energy never dies in one or another and everything keeps in tact very well.

Matt Damon gives an excellent preformance as George Lonegan, a man who believes that his gift to connect with the dead is more of a curse. Cecile De France gives an Oscar worthy preformance as Marie LeLay, a journalist who has a life changing experience after she dies. These two are among a cast of very talented actors and actresses who all give stirring preformances.

The script in this film is awesome. Not only does this script have to power to pull at your heartstrings, but it also radiates conflict of lost. "Is there a hereafter?" is not the question here, it is "how do we deal with the loss of our loved ones and how can we accept death as indevitable yet move on from that and live our lives happily?". Wether you believe in a hereafter or not, we can all learn a lesson from this movie and that's importnat for a successful movie.

The ending, however, is slightly disappointing. Clint Eastwood is such a talented filmmaker who understands what makes a story unique and yet the ending is so cliche.

When it comes right down to it, the predictable ending does not ruin the overall film. This is a very entertaining, very emotional film filled with talented actors; it has a great script, and a great director.

Hereafter is one of the best movies of the year. I say see it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Remember back in the good, old days when Hollywood used to give their inpatients lobotomies? I do. For all you softer, gentler moviegoers, here's It's Kind of a Funny Story, and it is.

For everybody who has seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Zach Galifianakis' performance as Bobby will inevitably bring back memories of Jack Nicholson as McMurphy. Sadly, I am not sure if that is good enough.

Unlike 'One Flew', however, this ward-based romantic comedy also tries serving up a fresh, hot bowl of drama on the side, with little success I might add.

Now it's not the cast or even the crew that are to blame for this mishap. In fact, Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts do a pretty good job here in their roles and Zach Galifianakis definitely brings the laughs. No, I believe the fault lies with the script. There are just not enough opportunities for drama to develop here because the film is too busy trying to be indie, with the hand-drawn animation and the teenage monologues/ flashbacks.

Now that's not to say that this movie isn't funny. It is. Zach Galifianakis is a brilliant comedian who has the ability to derive laughs from practical, totally unfunny situations and that is what most of the humor consists of in this film. However, when this film tries to be dramatic as well, it totally destroys everything this movie was going for.

Overall, this is a funny, entertaining movie that has the right heart, just not the right script. I believe that if Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had focused more on the story and less on trying to be indie then this could have definitely accomplished everything it is desperately trying to be.

Monday, October 25, 2010


So let me get this straight... It's another action-comedy starring Bruce Willis as a cop? Wait a second... didn't Cop Out suck? What's that you say? It also stars Morgan Freeman? Cool, but he hasn't done any big time action films for a while. Oh, Morgan Freeman punches Richard Dreyfuss in the throat? Cool! And you say it also stars John Malkovich as a paranoid, anti-government, senile, old coot who blows stuff up with a stuffed pig? I'm there!

So you're a retired CIA agent living on your own. You've given up the life of high speed chases, shootouts, and a really cool badge, what are you going to do now? Not much. In fact, you have nothing to do besides rip up retirement checks in order to continue talking with your cute case manager. So when the V.P. tags you Retired Extremely Dangerous, you are more than happy to assemble your old special opps team in order to hunt him down and get to the bottom of this.

Frank Moses- Alias: Bruce Willis: Same facial expressions and attitude he has in every other cop-comedy makes for a funny, yet predictable preformance.
Joe Matheson- Alias: Morgan Freeman: Although his preformance is brief, Freeman still manages to get a chuckle or two out of the audience.
Victoria- Alias: Hellen Mirren: Old lady doesn't take anything from the overall experience; however, we never benefit from her preformance.
Marvin Boggs- Alias: John Malkovich: The most plentiful source of humor in the movie. He makes the movie worth paying for.

SUMMARY: Willis and Malkovich have two of the most prominent roles in the film; however, everybody seems to be having fun playing their part and that, in turn, makes the movie that much more fun.

That German Who Directed The Time Traveler's Wife- Alias: Robert Schwentke: Fairly interesting camerawork takes this film from mediocre to  something actually entertaining.

SUMMARY: It might be interesting to see Schwentke take on another action film like this one.

Those Two Brothers Who Don't Really Have a Big Movie to their Name- Aliases: Jon and Erich Hoeber: Not everything these characters say or do makes sense, but in a way it kind of adds to the whole humor thing; however, it takes a lot away from the film and make it more difficult to follow along, if you care about the plot.

SUMMARY: These guys should probably spend their time writing more comedies and stop writing things like Whiteout.

CASE SUMMARY: This movie is ridiculous so don't walk into the theatre expecting to see some face-paced, witty, class act action film. Although it is face-paced, it is neither witty nor a class act film. It does its job as a comedy and thanks mainly in part to Malkovich and Schwentke, this film is worth seeing.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Social Network

If we were still living in the 1990's and you told me that Justin Timberlake would co-star in one of the greatest movies of 2010, I would've been like: "You mean that guy from NSYC?".

The Social Network. So you probably know what this movie is about by now- Mark Zuckerberg and his $25 billion dollar website that nobody has ever heard of called Facebook. You would think that creating a massive online social gathering site off your laptop in your dorm while you are still a sophomore in college would be simple, right? Well there actually is more to it than that, much more. Your rich friend who pays for everything isn't getting "his slice of the pie", you are in the middle of two law suits, one of which is your bestest and only friend in the world, and if that wasn't enough, Sean Parker, the founder of Napster somehow gets invloved too. 

What can be said about this movie? Well, it's pretty, darn good. Everything about this movie flows evenly: the cast is great and clicks wonderfully, the director is one of a kind, and the script is almost inspirational.

This movie owes a lot of its success to its cast. Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as depressed, lonely, super-hacker Mark Zuckerberg. His preformance here is a career best so far that will be tough to top and it is definitely Oscar-worthy. Andrew Garcia brings most of the drama to the table in his role as co-founder of The Facebook, Eduardo Saverin, also a career best. And of course there is pop superstar Justin Timberlake who, shockingly, gives a stirring preformance as Napster founder Sean Parker. It goes without saying that this is, by far, is also an acting career high for the singer.

My friend, founder of his own popular site:, once said that David Fincher is probably the greatest director of our generation. Now, I like Fight Club and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button but I didn't exactly agree with him (I mean come on, Fincher got his start directing George Michael music videos!) until I saw this movie. Fincher excells in movies that deal with a fragmented timeline. He is the master puzzle solver who actually makes you take what you're seeing and piece it all together yourself and once again, he works his magic o make this one of the best movies of 2010.

Last but not least, there is Aaron Sorkin. Oh, Sorkin, we love you. We love your understanding of human interaction and how you get to the core of what real drama is. We love your work in writing The West Wing and A Few Good Men. We may not know exactly how you know what it takes to take real storiest, find the drama in them, and then whip up a very smart, very classy script about them, but we're glad you do it. Thank you, Aaron Sorkin.

Yes this movie has a wonderful cast, awesome direction, and one of the greatest scripts ever written, but I am here to tell you the truth in everything. This movie is very entertainning and it will keep you in your seat wanting more... that is if you do not have ADD and are interested in this story. This movie isn't as dramatic as it needs to be in order to be a really enthralling drama. There is a lot of talk and I mean A LOT of plain, old fashioned talk. However, if you care about the story and have the attention span, it really is a good movie.

See it, definitely.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

It has been 23 years since Oliver Stone has invested anything into his original story and now fans are investing hard earned disposable income and time into his latest installment, Money Never Sleeps. Many loyal fans have been banking on this sequel, but maybe their money is better off sitting in a mutual fund somewhere or something.

Most sequels pick up right where the original film left off, or maybe a year or two later, however, Money Never Sleeps takes place an entire generation after the first film, which is one of the most interesting things about it. Finally, Gordon Gekko is out of prison and released into a whole different world than when he went in. Gordon is broke, lonely, and has been dropped off in the economic meltdown of 2008 and is finding out that 21st Century Wall Street is much leaner and meaner than the 1980's version.

Money Never Sleeps has enough going for it and this sequel definitely focuses more on the past life of the character who won Michael Douglas his Oscar, and attempts to derive most of the drama from the shambles of his broken relationship with his daughter; however, about halfway through Michael Douglas disappears from the film for far too long and it leaves us with Shia LaBouf talking about numbers for a big portion of the movie- boring (if I wanted numbers, I'd pay attention in my accounting class).

This movie is star studded. With actors like Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Josh Brolin, and of course Shia LaBouf and Michael Douglas, there is definitely no shortage of talent, but even with all these big names Money Never Sleeps can't seem to keep everybody awake. These actors are definitely capable of stirring up emotion, but this script is about as dramatic and clever as it is funny, so in other words, it's not either of those things. Money may not be able to sleep, but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't.

Oliver Stone really likes shots of New York city, as most of the scene changes are exactly that. Stone's work with the camera in this film is probably some of his most interesting work, sadly he seemed more interested in getting a shot of some sky scrappers in the sunset.

It has ben 23 years since Oliver Stone has invested anything into his original story and from seeing how this sequel turned out, he probably should have kept Gordon behind bars. Twenty-three years is a long time for a sequel so there is no excuse for this boring script. As Gordon Gekko says here,"Money is not the prime asset- time is" and Stone has committed the crime of robbing us of both.

Interest rates are low on this one. Skip it.